William F. Buckley, Jr.:
Intimate Glimpses of a Dogmatic Timocrat and His Family
I have before me on my desk three items—three mementos of my obstreperous adolescent days—which serve to remind me also of a stint of work I performed for William F. Buckley, Jr. and his National Review magazine after I left (1962) preparatory school and before I entered (1962) St. Bonaventure University to study Scholastic Philosophy.
A “To Whom It May Concern” letter of recommendation, dated 7 August 1962, testifying to the fact that I “worked for over a year for National Review and did so diligently, good-humoredly, and creatively. I heartily recommend him to any prospective employer, and will be glad to elaborate on his qualities over the telephone. Yours faithfully, Wm. F. Buckley, Jr., President.”
An autographed copy of William F. Buckley, Jr.’s Up from Liberalism with the following dedication to me: “For Tony—With regards from the father of your greatest admirer—William F. Buckley, Jr.”
I met Christopher Buckley at a National Review Christmas party (December, 1961) at William F. Buckley, Jr.’s home on Wallack’s Point, Stamford, Connecticut. I never saw him or heard from him again in my life, and I am curious to know why I certified—on the autograph page of my copy of Up from Liberalism—to be his “greatest admirer.” (Will Power Willie [see Exhibit C] has always had a weakness for publicity: His family was forever sinking money into National Review to keep it afloat when no one cared to buy the journal, and he needed all the friends he could summon up.) I befriended the young lad for the night because he and I were awash on a sea of blowhard conservative bigwigs, and it was time for us to adjourn to a quiet, calm place to speak about baseball and rock n’ roll.
In preparing the writing of this essay, I reread Up from Liberalism hoping to find substantive argumentation on behalf of Northamerican conservatism, but I found none. The book is a well-documented, well-written (very well-written—especially if you like, as I do, the classical rhetorical style) piece which does little to enliven the morbidity of conservative beliefs. Will Power Willie chugs along relieving himself, he is the Master Debater, of pent-up political frustrations with leftist conceptions of behavior in government. The best—and it is not so good—Will Power Will, Jr. comes up with against liberalism, is this cute bit, on page 155:
“What is the Liberal millennium? So far as I can make out, it is the state in which a citizen divides his day equally between pulling levers in voting booths (Voting for what? It does not matter; what matters is that he vote); writing dissenting letters to the newspapers (Dissenting from what? It does not matter; just so he dissents); and eating (Eating what? It does not matter, though one should wash the food down with fluoridated water).”
All liberals should go to the Buckley home and try to wash down their food while James L. masticates and utters shrill clear sounds by drawing air through his puckered lips and spaced teeth. (See Exhibit C.)
We get to the heart of Will Power Willie’s delicate conservative sensibilities—and his authoritative, dogmatic, and power-driven special inclinations, when he toots off in the last two paragraphs of the book, where he comments on his Supreme Conservative Proposition, pages 202-03:
“Is that a programme? Call it a No-Program, if you will, but adopt it for your very own. I will not cede more power to the state. I will not willingly cede more power to anyone, not to the state, not to General Motors, not to the CIO. I will hoard my power like a miser, resisting every effort to drain it away from me. I will then use my power, as I see fit. I mean to live my life an obedient man, but obedient to God, subservient to the wisdom of my ancestors; never to the authority of political truths arrived at yesterday at the voting booth. That is a program of sorts, is it not?
It is certainly program enough to keep conservatives busy, and Liberals at bay. And the nation free.”
All right, already. It is a program. But a program of languor and nihilism for all but priggish Willie and his conservative noodlebrains. Father would have been proud. No-Program Will Power Will! (The Gambling Man!) No-Program Will Power Willie!! No-Program Obdurate Ronald Reagan!!!
Let us observe a man who does not want to yield to anyone or anything, who wants to amass his power for himself, and wants to do what he cares regardless of political truths reached yesterday at the voting booth. (EX-LAX has been known to relieve abnormally delayed or infrequent passage of dry, hardened feces.)
Here is an individual who has chosen two objects of worship: his earthly conservatism and his divine God. Both of these objects of veneration are absolute, and Will Power Willie is prepared, obviously, to submit to them using despotic means. He is rigid, incapable of tolerating ambiguity, closed-minded. He is not open to ideas, he does not wish to examine new opinions critically, and he does not give care to thought analysis. His mind is made up already and it is impossible for him to entertain novel conceptions. Hardly the one to propose dynamic political theory. But without a doubt the one to do business with the Securities and Exchange Commission:
“SPECIAL TO THE NEW YORK TIMES:
Washington, 2 November 1981…
Some members of the family of the late William F. Buckley, Sr., who made a fortune in foreign oil exploration, were ordered today to make payments and relinquish royalties totalling nearly $800,000.
The action was a result of Securities and Exchange Commission charges of financial irregularities by a family-held company.
The payments were ordered in a consent agreement entered into by the Buckley interests and the S. E. C. The agreement grew out of charges and investigations into the conduct from 1969 to 1980 of the Buckley business interests. Under the terms of the agreement, the Buckley interests neither admitted nor denied the charges.”
Is not the greatest contempt of the law one’s prerogative not to have to answer to it?
I am delighted that Will Power Willie has had success in writing spy thrillers. He is great at it! Better than writing novels than he is at penning his political postulates which reflect a torpor which can only appeal to men of limited wit. (Ronald Reagan?) His spy novels are full of zip. I am happy he has found, finally, a healthy way to deal with his inherited traits of authoritativeness and dogmatism. I prefer that he play out his license to kill on the pages of invented prose narrative rather than in the written records of National Review. Let us take heart that a Buckley family member acts out his aggressiveness by pounding on the pages of novel chapters and not on the heads or jaws—with ploughshares or fast fist strokes—of opponents and unbelievers (see Exhibit C).
A copy of W. F. B.—An Appreciation (By his Family and Friends), New York; Privately Printed, 1959. Edited by Priscilla L. Buckley and William F. Buckley, Jr.; Illustrated by A. Derso.
“This volume is privately published by the ten children of William F. Buckley for themselves, their children, and friends of the family, and is not intended for general distribution.
However, as long as the supply lasts, a copy of the book will be sent to anyone who wants it; with the compliments of the family.
Write to Miss Edna MacKenzie, 103 East 37th Street, New York 16, New York.”
“Fifteen hundred copies of this book have been issued. Typesetting is in Linotype Janson with printing by lithography on Warren’s Olde Style. White Wove covers are in DuPont PX-1 with impression by silk screening. Graphic design was executed by Harvey Satenstein and complete manufacturing by Book Craftsmen Associates, Inc., New York, December, 1959.”
* * *
I have always been pleased that William F. Buckley, Jr. thought well of my performance at National Review where, as a young man, I hobnobbed with conservative “intellectuals,” went out for sandwiches for the office, changed addresses for subscribers, answered letters of complaint, brought packages to Ayn Rand’s office, delivered messages to people at the United Nations, worked on Saturdays—overtime—to “put out the mag,” and carried out a host of other innocuous duties which I thought—at the time—were making a small but important contribution to instil in the hearts and minds of all Northamericans the precious idea of Conservatism. I worked with dedicated, talented people, and when I left reluctantly to continue my studies at the university, I went away wishing, foolishly, to return once again and continue the uphill march to achieve honor and glory for Conservatism. My political notions were passionate, and I rallied round the Conservative flagpole loyal to William F. Buckley, Jr.’s conviction to hoist the distinctive design of a disposition in politics to preserve what is established—a philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change.
I have long considered W. F. B.—An Appreciation to be an important document. It records the personal life of a famous and rich conservative, it shows how a man endowed with great wealth would use his power to enhance his conservative political sentiments, and very importantly, it serves to give us insight into the personality of the enigmatic William F. Buckley, Jr. whose father, elegised in the book, played so potent an influence in the development of whom is perhaps Northamerica’s most popular political reactionary.
In this essay, I wish to detail sixty one direct quotations from W. F. B.—An Appreciation with the hope of introducing to the reader facets of the personality of William F. Buckley, Jr.’s father which surge beyond the dominant tendency in the book to pay homage to a man “…so gay and gallant, one of God’s noblemen, a man of pleasing personality, a gracious host, a churchman given to wide charity without ostentation, a loyal member of the Catholic Church, and the founder and architect of the Buckley family as it exists today.”
The excerpts adduced:
In the Foreward of W. F. B.—An Appreciation, written by daughter Priscilla L. Buckley, page ix:
“But it was far more important to William Buckley (Sr.) that his children be courteous, industrious, and God-fearing. And that they know how to laugh at themselves and—cardinal virtue—that their teeth be cleaned. (Father once estimated that his dentists’ bills—he was impelled to make the calculation in surveying the sea of platinum that obscured his children’s teeth over a period of ten or fifteen years—cost him more than the formal education of his father’s entire family.) The inner qualities rather than the outer symbols were important to him.”
In Part One, Texas, I. “Retold Tale,” by son F. Reid Buckley, citing a story about William F. Buckley, Sr.’s grandfather, an Irish Protestant recently married to an Irish Catholic, who went to the Orangemen to forbid them to parade across his land in deference to his new wife’s religion, page 4:
“They paid no attention to him, and some of the men in front began climbing across. He took up a plowshare and bashed in the head of the first man to touch down on his land. This was maybe the first time a plowshare had been turned into a sword so quickly.
Well, they threw him into jail. He was there eight days while they waited to see whether the man he hit was going to die or not. He didn’t. But after that your ancestor thought it wise to leave Ireland.
That’s how we came to be Americans.”
In Part One, Texas, II. “My Brother’s Early Years,” by brother Claude H. Buckley, page 11:
“While still a very small boy, Will (Buckley, Sr.) began to study Latin and to serve Father Bard as altar boy. He continued to do so for fifteen years or more, even during his vacations at home from the University.”
In Part One, Texas, III. “College Days,” by friend Walter S. Pope, page 17:
“Will was a very devoted and consistent Christian, a loyal member of the Catholic Church in Austin. As to his loyalty to his church I will mention one instance that occurred while he was a student. St. Edward’s College, a Catholic University, was and is situated across the river south of Austin. The University of Texas and St. Ed’s were great baseball rivals and at this time the ball game was being played in the St. Edward ball park. When the game was very hot and close a priest called “safe” what appeared to someone to be a foul ball. One of the big-mouthed Texas students yelled: “That damn priest is lying.” With lightning speed Will (Buckley, Sr.) knocked him down with a fast fist stroke.”
“His sainted Mother was a semi-invalid during the first years in Austin, and I am sure Will’s vacations were devoted to her and the family welfare to the extent that I never knew of him having so much as a date; at least, he never had a regular date with anyone during our school day acquaintance….”
Ibid., 21. Father writing to Walter Pope in 1914 explaining his Mexican exploits:
“I worked myself to a nervous wreck and spent all last summer in the North under medical treatment.”
In Part Two, Mexico, I. “Tampico,” by Cecilio Velasco, page 34:
“In 1921 they had the satisfaction of seeing Mr. Buckley expelled from Mexico as an undesirable foreigner.”
In Part Two, Mexico, III. “Witness,” by William F. Buckley, Sr., testimony given at Washington, D. C., 6 December 1919, taken by Francis J. Kearful, Esq., in pursuance of an order of the Subcommittee of the Committee on Foreign Relations of the United States’ Senate, and referring to Mexican government leader Huerta, Father speaks, page 59:
“Huerta could have been eliminated by the use of some tact.”
Ibid., 82. Father continues:
“The truth is that it does not matter what a great majority of the Mexican people think; the mass of the people have not the ability to think clearly; and have not the knowledge on which to base convictions, or the public spirit to act on them.”
“The irresponsibility of the mass of the people in Mexico is incomprehensible to the average American.”
“The Latin American representatives (during the process of the Niagara Conference) in this case showed the weakness that men of their race usually show in a crisis.”
“As stated before in this connection, the American Government has disregarded the history of the last 100 years, which shows that up to the present time Latin American countries may only be ruled successfully by their educated classes, and that the mass of the people are not yet prepared to exercise the attributes of democracy.”
“While the Brazilian minister was most solicitous in his regard for the rights of Americans, and all Americans in Mexico remember him with gratitude, nevertheless it was impossible for him to deal with Americans without developing friction, for the very simple reason that there is a fundamental difference in the character between the Latin American and the American that can never be reconciled—a difference in their ideas of government which should be recognized and reckoned with in any intelligent policy.”
“I practiced law in Tampico from 1911 to 1913 and represented nearly every American company in the field at that time as well as several European companies, and because of this connection and subsequent interest in oil leases there I have kept closely in touch with the situation.
There is no question that the oil companies are right in their contention—there is no question that their properties were legitimately acquired, that they have been confiscated, and that they are entitled to the protection of the American Government.”
“The oil company, able to fight, has not had the courage to do so, and has fallen back on the one alternative—bribery.”
“The educated Mexican, the great mass of the Mexican people, have not been given any opportunity in the last seven years.”
“…Latin America respects us more when we attend to our own business and do not call Latin Americans in for consultation. Our relations with Mexico are our own business and nobody else’s. The use of a firm hand in dealing with Mexico would only strengthen the respect of Latin America for us; I don’t mean armed intervention, for, as I stated before, I do not think this is necessary, nor have I in mind just the present situation; but what I mean is that under ordinary circumstances we should insist that every American, no matter how insignificant he may be and even though he be in the most remote part of Mexico, has the right to the protection of his government and that where he is discriminated against or denied the protection of the law, the American Government would be justified in using its entire Army and Navy to give him protection, and nothing would have a more salutary effect on our Latin American relations than the use of our Army and Navy where this use is justified. It would instil a wholesome respect in people who would commit the same abuses that have been committed in Mexico if they could do so with impunity. Nothing would have raised our prestige so in Latin America as the dispatching of an army across the border the first time an American was touched and the execution of all those who had injured him. If this had been done seven years ago, if it had been threatened, Americans would have had no trouble either in Mexico or in the rest of Latin America. As it is, our prestige in Latin America was never so low as it is today.”
In Part Two, Mexico, IV. “The Other Mexico He Talked About,” by daughter Priscilla L. Buckley, page 134:
“We, as children, never knew much about the foregoing. I doubt if two of us had read his Fall Committee testimony at the time of his death. We were dimly aware he had been counsel for the Mexican Government at the ABC conference at Niagara; that he had refused a preferred commission as acting Governor of Vera Cruz after the marine landings there in 1914, and that he was proud of that refusal. To us, Father’s life in Mexico was something altogether different—a mixture of high adventure and misadventure, of wild coincidence, hold-ups and assassinations, of humorous capsules and sweeping generalities, of incidents that had centered around that erect, eagle-nosed gentleman at the head of the table with the thin receding hair, the Wilson-pince-nez, the gentle and courteous manner, and the will of iron.”
“The marvellous story of La Isleta, Buckley Island, told the first of many times during a walk when we were living at 1 Avenue Ingres, in Paris. Father, with hat high on his high forehead and cane swinging. Mother on one arm. The three oldest of us on the other, and knock-kneed six-year-old Jimmy, in his absorption, walking half backwards, always underfoot, totally impervious to the running commentary, ‘Jimmy, get out of the way…Mother, tell Jimmy to get out of the way…Honestly, if you’re not big enough to walk right…’
This may not be exactly the way it happened, but this is the way I think Father once said it happened and if it is not so, I for one, don’t want to know it…. Tampico, as you know, lies on the Panuco River, near the Gulf of Mexico, and is terribly hot. On the river was a sandbar, visible only at low tide. Father thought the sandbar could make a cool breeze-swept residential area, so he persuaded some dredgers already on the job clearing the river channel, to dump their loads of slit on the sandbar. The land which emerged was known as Buckley Island. Well, he developed it, put in streets, and sewers and lights and was ready to sell lots when (‘…that crook, what was the name of that fellow, Aloise, my lawyer…’) his lawyer, in collusion with the local judge, forged a set of deeds and titles to land which had never existed before. The lawyer forged the deeds, the judge declared them valid and Father, with several hundred thousand dollars sunk in Buckley Island was ordered to get out….
‘I called in Rox Beaumont (a Texas badman but a good badman because he sometimes worked for Father) and told him to get a dozen of the toughest fellows he knew and go out to La Isleta. They each had a shotgun and I paid them t-w-e-n-t-y-f-i-v-e American dollars a day, Well, the crook was trying to sell lots on the island, but when the customers wanted to see the lots, he couldn’t show it to them, not without running into Rox Beaumont. That went on for some time and one day, the judge came to see me. ‘Mr. Buckley,’ he said, ‘no one is making money this way. That lawyer of yours is a fool. So we fixed it up….’ Father took the case back to court and the judge declared that the titles and deeds he had previously honoured were rank and amateurish forgeries. And Buckley Island was saved.”
“The time he was arrested for driving into Tampico with a faulty headlight and told he would have to leave his car at the police station overnight. ‘Leave it here? I wouldn’t dare. There wouldn’t be anything left of it by morning. Everybody knows the police headquarters is the biggest concentration of thieves in Tampico.’ The police, red-faced and angry, insisted on holding the car. Whereupon Father ostentatiously sent his servant to headquarters to “watch over” the car. The result: a five peso fine for faulty headlights, twenty five pesos ‘por insultas a de dignidad de la policia mexicana…’ (and how he could roll that out)…”
“The time a squatter set out to build a shack on Father’s land between his house and the river—and refused to leave…. ‘Just before the shack was completed and the scoundrel moved in, I called in Ramòn (his manservant) and told him, ‘Ramòn, you see that shack over there on my property? Well, I don’t care what happens to it. Every stick is yours, provided it is removed before dawn.’ Ramòn was the world’s laziest man but he would work feverishly if he ever had the opportunity to earn a dishonest dollar…Well, sir, I looked out the next morning and there wasn’t a trace left of that house,’ he laughed uproariously. ‘Remember, Aloise, we were having a dinner party that night and the police came in with the squatter to ask what I had done with his house…I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ I said. ‘A house, on my land? I know nothing about a house on my land. Surely no one would build a house on my land without my permission….’”
“…and several wild stories about wild train rides. Did both these incidents happen at the same time? Or was Father on two different trains between Mexico City and Tampico that were held up by bandits? In any case, once Father was on a train and had 20,000 Mexican dollars, I think it was. He didn’t know where to hide the money…. ‘I put it under the seat and then I thought, maybe the spittoon, but after a while I thought that wouldn’t do, so I went into the men’s room and I tried to find a hiding place there…and about this time, they started to come aboard…(moment of panic among six listening little Buckleys each of whom wondered where he would have put it if only he had been so lucky as to have been in a train that was held up)…so, do you know, I suddenly thought, well there’s one place they certainly won’t look and I put that money on the top of my head, under my hat…Would you believe it, that was the one place they didn’t look….’”
“And, as he told it, possibly the funniest story of the lot—though it was a major setback in a lifetime filled with misadventures which kept Father’s close associates and colleagues in a state of almost unremitting depression, but which only led to further exuberance on Father’s own part—His revolution that failed. Months of hard work had gone into it. General Pelaez’ army was ready and waiting. A representative had been sent to Washington to persuade the State Department to remain non-committal when Pelaez moved out of the Tamaulipas lowlands south towards the mountains and Mexico City. An ammunition train was en route to the Mexican border with the arms Pelaez needed.
‘The fellow in charge was an idiot, one of those tall, good-looking Irishmen, always full of himself, and without a brain in his head…I must say, it was no real surprise to me that he lost his way. He guided that wagon train into Mexico, then got lost and led it right back, across the Rio Grande—of course that’s the only river within a thousand miles and it happens to mark the boundary but he managed to overlook it and…(at this point Father could hardly repress his own laughter)…he then got himself arrested on charges of smuggling arms into the States…But the funniest of all was Garnett….’ Dr. Garnett, a close friend of Father’s since University days, had been dispatched to Washington to handle the diplomatic developments. ‘…you know when the Revolution collapsed, we all forgot to notify Garnett so he marched into the State Department on schedule, striped trousers and all, and proclaimed himself representative of the Pelaez government…They didn’t know what on Earth he was talking about…I’ll tell you, Garnett was furious. He wouldn’t speak to us for months….’ And the memory of that abortive interview of long ago would trigger a burst of laughter so infectious that we, who had never seen Dr. Garnett (and privately thought he had been treated rather shabbily) would laugh and laugh, too. And Mother, who didn’t really like to hear Father talk about fomenting revolution, would giggle as helplessly as the rest.”
“But—as we got older—we started asking ourselves, Are all these stories true?”
“It was in 1916, when the Marines had landed at Vera Cruz. The situation was tense, particularly for the Americans stranded in Tampico up the river, with no gunboats standing by to protect them. Most of them gathered together for safety in the hotels and waited. On the balconies, by the windows on the rooftops, lay Mexican sharpshooters waiting, like the Americans in the hotel, for someone to drop the match.
The U. S. Government, having precipitated the crisis, had made no arrangements to protect U. S. nationals whom it had left at the mercy of an enraged and trigger-happy Mexican mob. One way or another, the troops had to be brought in.
But how to attract the attention of the nearby German gunboat? ‘Your father,’ the man told Aloise and John, ‘went out into the middle of the silent square and started hurling obscenities in Spanish such as we never thought to hear from him and didn’t know he knew at the Mexicans and he deliberately provoked their fire….’ And an alarmed German naval captain made his way to the plaza with his armed crew, and evacuated the Americans in his gunboat.
When they asked Father about it later that day, he just laughed and changed the subject.”
“Another six or seven years later, when Father had taken part of the family down to live in Mexico City for six months, he and Priscilla were walking home from a movie one night. As they came out of a side street into a small square, Father stopped and pointed with his cane to the diagonally opposite corner.
‘During the revolution…the Zapatistas had just entered the city. I was coming home from the American Club, along this street when I saw a bunch of troops right over there, where I’m pointing. They had thrown up some kind of barricade and were crouching behind it. Several of the rifles were aimed right at me. I knew that if I went down that way…’, he pointed to the left, ‘…they might shoot me. It wasn’t beyond them to make a bet on it…’ (“See that fellow there, I can drop him in one shot.”) So Father had walked straight across the square, right at the gun muzzles which had followed his every step. When he got up close, he spoke to the leader: ‘Senor, have you the time? My watch is broken.’ Father chatted with them a few minutes. Where were they from? How far had they come today? How was the battle coming? He wished them good luck and lifting his hat, he bade them a courteous ‘buenas noches!’
‘You see,’ he told Priscilla, ‘no Mexican who had done you a favor would ever shoot you in the back.’”
Ibid., 143. From the English language Mexico City newspaper, Excelsior, reporting on Father’s expulsion from Mexico in November, 1921:
“Several days ago it became known that agents of the secret police were looking for Mr. Buckley. He is now in the American Embassy pending the arrangements to be made between George T. Summerlin, United States’ Charge D’Affaires, and the Foreign Office for his departure from the country.”
Ibid., 147. In retrospection, 36 years later, Father speaking to the children:
“They had ordered me arrested in Vera Cruz three months before. But they had no evidence of my being implicated in the revolution—I was implicated up to my nose—so I wrote an article in the paper the next morning in which I dared them to prove anything. Declared my innocence of this false charge.”
In Part Three, New York, I. “Odyssey of an Oil Man,” Douglas Reed speaks, page 153:
“As I write this (1956) the net worth of the companies under Buckley’s guidance is around $110,000,000, having risen to that from $25,000,000 in the ten post-war years, and the Buckley group is ensconced in the oil situations of Venezuela, Canada, Florida, the Philippines, Israel, Australia, and Guatemala.”
“Under Secretary of State Buckley (if imagination be allowed the flight) there would have been no truck with or knuckling down to discriminatory or confiscatory laws or taxes anywhere. Hence W. F. B.’s future lay in oil.”
“When the revolutions ended W. F. B. had given up the practice of Law (he was not the man long to represent any but William Buckley) and gone into the oil business for himself….”
“Then a real estate development built in Tampico by Buckley was invaded by squatters. Buckley convinced the authorities that the neighborhood sportsmen sorely needed a rifle range on his property for practicing their marksmanship and the squatters retired, persuaded of the basic human right which they had challenged.”
“Beyond that, he had a vision. Today, Venezuela is so rich (chiefly through oil) that its diplomats’ entertainments in the world’s capitals are renowned for their splendor and their gushers of champagne. Thirty years ago, when interest in Venezuelan oil was only beginning, very few foresaw this rising future.”
“Buckley has often been called the inventor of the farm-out system, which today is widely used in the oil business. If his sole origination of it cannot be established, he was certainly one of the originators and most successful practitioners.
The farm-out is in effect a sub-lease; the sub-lessee accounts the prospects good enough to take over the cost of exploring, drilling, and developing and to pay the lessee an agreed share of the profits from oil or gas produced. It also somewhat resembles share-cropping in reverse, wealthier partner deeming it worth his while to do the work and share the yield, in cash or kind. This was the basis of all Buckley’s subsequent ventures. The concept is simple; its execution, like figure-skating, is also simple if you can do it.”
“If the name Buckley is not written on any oil leases in Africa, the venture in Israel is the reason; Catawba made a bid for concessions in Libya but this was refused when the Libyan authorities learned of its activities in Israel. Somewhere along the lines of these years concessions were obtained or were under negotiation in Australia, Italy, Greece and Guatemala, and a producing field in Wyoming was picked up.”
“He came a long way from San Diego, Texas. If oil one day should give way, among the requirements of man, to something else that comes out of the ground, the big operators when they arrive on the scene will find the name of Buckley or of one of the companies he organized on the claim-stakes already planted, and Catawba will be pegging claims somewhere else, outside the range of that moment’s interest. That will happen if his philosophy is continued.”
In Part Three, New York, II. “Post-Mexico: The Business History,” by George S. Montgomery, Jr., page 173:
“Contrary to the practice of visiting foreigners, W. F. B. did not immediately on his arrival, seek out an interview with the omnipotent President Gomez (Venezuelan dictator). He went, instead, about his business travelling about the country appraising the merits of the land. So unusual was his conduct that the President, out of curiosity to meet the renowned independent who had had so flamboyant a career in Mexico, sent W.F. B. an “invitation,” “requesting” a visit from him. (Dictator Gomez’ invitations were not often refused.) The first encounter between these two strong men occurred in 1924. A healthy relationship took hold, based on mutual respect that lasted until the President’s death. It proved a considerable asset when W. F. B. put together his remarkable selection of concessions and throughout the many troublesome years when they stood endangered.”
“During his lifetime, W. F. B. built up an oil empire which virtually encompassed the globe. The following companies were created by him and the shares of each company were being actively traded on the American Stock Exchange in New York and in other Exchanges in the United States and Canada at the time of his death:
Pantepec Oil Company, C. A. Pancoastal Petroleum Company, Coastal Carribbean Oils, Inc., Canada Southern Petroleum, Ltd., Canso Oil Producers, Ltd., Canso Natual Gas, Ltd., Pan-Israel Oil Company, Inc., and Israel-Mediterranean Petroleum, Inc.
Following certain developments making mergers advisable, Canso Natural Gas, Ltd. and Canso Oil Producers, Ltd. were united into United Canso Oil & Gas, Ltd. The two Israel Companies have been merged into Magellan Petroleum Corporation.
The Buckley Companies, at the time of Mr. Buckley’s death (1958), had important holdings in Venezuela, Florida, Canada (including the North West Territories), Guatemala, Ecuador, The Philippines and Australia.”
In Part Three, New York, IV. “Love Affair with Oil,” by son John W. Buckley, page 191:
“In business, Father had not one but two Achilles heels: He was a monumentally poor judge of character, and he would instinctively believe what he wanted to hear rather than what might prove unpleasant or contrary to his cherished premises.”
In Part Four, Connecticut, I. “Supper at Great Elm,” by daughter Aloise Buckley Heath, pages 201-02:
“Aloise sits next to Mama, because Aloise is both plain and argumentative and Papa, often articulately, deplores these characteristics in any female of any age. Jimmy is in the chair on Mama’s other side because Jimmy (a) makes smacking noises when he chews, (b) never gets the backs of his hands clean, (c) chatters incessantly in a physically unbearable penny-whistle screech, and Papa, often articulating, deplores these characteristics in any person of any age. (Another reason Jimmy sits besides Mama is that (d) Jimmy and Mama are each other’s favorite.) John and Priscilla sit in secure serenity on either side of Papa because they are by nature, clean and pretty, sweet-tempered and mellow, and can therefore only be teased about things they don’t mind.”
In Part Four, Connecticut, II. “Memorandum to: Aloise, John, Priscilla, Jimmy, Jane, Billie, Patricia, Reid, Maureen, Carol,” by Billie (William F. Buckley, Jr.) Buckley, Jr., pages 218-20:
“There was nothing complicated about Father’s theory of childbearing: he brought up his sons and daughters with the quite simple objective that they become absolutely perfect. To this end his children were, at one time or another, given professional instruction in: apologetics, art, ballroom dancing, banjo, bird-watching, building boats in bottles, calligraphy, canoeing, carpentry, cooking, driving trotting horses, French, folk-dancing, golf, guitar (Hawaiian and Spanish), harmony, herb-gardening, horsemanship, history of architecture, ice-skating, mandolin, marimba, music appreciation, organ, painting, piano, playing popular music, rumba, sailing, skiing, singing, Spanish, speech, stenography, swimming, typing, and wood-carving.”
“Protruding teeth and romances; poor diction and sophomore marks at college; quarrelling, careers and the choice of a fraternity, were all subjects to which he gave time and thought; about which letters and memoranda—often from a hotel in Caracas, a sleeping car in Spain, and apartment in Paris or a rented room in London, arrived in due course in college letter box or on the Great Elm breakfast table.”
“In the interests of common courtesy, the memo was, as usual, headed ‘To the Buckley Children’ and followed by ‘cc: Aloise, John, Priscilla, Jimmy, Jane, Billy, Patricia, Reid, Maureen, Carol.’”
“MEMORANDUM TO THE CHILDREN:
As you probably know, Americans are famous for being the poorest conversationalists in the world. Education and cultivation of the mind do not seem to improve us. We can’t stay on a subject and we are constitutionally incapable of listening. As a people we are always thinking of something we are going to tell the ‘bore’ as soon as he stops talking. A political conversation is never a ‘give and take,’ but leads to a monologue—usually by the least interesting and least informed person present.
I am enclosing an article from December’s Reader’s Digest, which you should all read again and again. It is the best thing I have ever seen written on this subject.
Ibid., 224. A letter to John just before his 14th birthday:
“My dear John,
On Sunday you told me that you would see Mr. Tuttle Monday and would write me that day the name of a book on saddle horses. You did not do this Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.
My getting a letter from you about this matter is not of great importance, but it is very important that you do what you promised to do. I have noticed invariably that those of my friends who keep their slightest promise are successful and those who don’t keep their small promises are not successful.
This is a very slovenly habit to get into and one which promises to be a lifelong habit with you and Aloise if you don’t correct it right away. After this, when I ask you to do anything I wish you would think it over seriously and if you decide it is too much trouble tell me then that you won’t do it. I quite understand that your training in doing things has been very deficient, but you and Aloise are now old enough to do some thinking for yourself and develop your own character.
Ibid., 226. A letter to the headmistress of the Ethel Walker School, Father writes about Maureen’s speech:
“I have intended for some time to write or speak to you about Maureen’s speech. She does not speak distinctly and has a tendency, in beginning a sentence, to utter any number of words almost simultaneously. Anything that the school may do to improve this condition would be greatly appreciated by us. I have always had a feeling that there was some physical obstruction that caused this, but doctors say there is not. She is one of two or three children in our family who have no wisdom teeth—perhaps this has something to do with it. I hope you will pardon my adding to your many burdens.”
Ibid., 226. When Father and 8-year-old Maureen were roommates:
“After Maureen and I had played two games of Parchesi and I had read her one story and she had read me one story, I mentioned the fact that it was almost two hours past her bedtime. Your sister asked me pointedly where her Mother and I habitually undressed for bed. I replied that your mother usually undressed in the bathroom while I read the evening paper, and when your Mother had come to bed, I took my turn in the bathroom. I added that, in view of her superior sex, Maureen would be given priority in the bathroom.
Your maidenly sister gave vent to an enormous sigh and said: ‘Well, I’m glad to know our main problem is solved!’
I hope you all appreciate the ladylike delicacy of your sister’s instincts.”
Ibid., 226. A “Memorandum to William F. Buckley, Jr.” about Reid’s sideburns:
“Jane tells me that Reid has quite extensive sideburns. When he started growing them I mentioned them to him very casually and he said that that was required of the Glee Club—which sounds rather extraordinary. If you could gently suggest to him that he remove them, it would be a great relief to the family. I would rather he would not belong to the Glee Club.
Ibid., 230-33. A biography of Reid by Father written for the family newspaper, Grelmschatka:
“To the Editor of GRELMSCHATKA:
In connection with Reid’s wedding, you have asked me to give you a short account of his youthful career.
Reid started life by being born in the American Hospital in Paris on Bastille Day, July 14, 1930, having in mind undoubtedly the prospect of entering French politics and becoming President, since the locale of his birth precluded his occupying a similar post in the United States. We had lived in Paris since 1929. In the fall of 1932 your Mother took you all to England where we rented a house in Edward’s Square. Billie (William F. Buckley, Jr.) and Patricia attended school for a year at Cavendish Square Convent, Parkham Place, located very near our home, and Reid and Maureen were of course at home.
Reid by 1933 spoke Spanish fluently, but no English. Being very fond of talking as a young man, and finding himself with no audience, he proceeded to master the English language within a few weeks. It seemed to be no problem at all.
Shortly after our arrival in London Reid told me that he wanted to see Buckingham Palace, thinking no doubt that he would walk right in and have a chat with the King. I took him to see the Palace from the outside; Reid was greatly impressed at its size and its isolation. As we passed by the two guards in their magnificent uniforms standing in the small cupolas on either side of the entrance, Reid became almost speechless, a rare condition for him. Reid told me that he had thought there was only one King and was surprised to find two, thinking of course that each of the guards was a king.
Reid used to come into his Mother’s and my bedroom while in England dressed sometimes as a Bishop (he skipped the Priest stage) and sometimes as a Major General and occasionally as a King. He would march past our beds and look into the mirror at the corner to see how much he had impressed us, never suspecting that at the same time we could see him through the mirror.
I stayed in France on some business most of the time but came over to England very often. On one occasion when I appeared unannounced and to the surprise of Reid and Nana who were sitting on the stairway, Reid exclaimed to Nana, ‘El Senor!’ Nana was much embarrassed and asked Reid what he meant by El Senor, to which he replied, ‘Oh, that Senor that comes once in a while and eats and sleeps here. They also call him mi papa.’”
While eating his meals in the children’s dining room Reid entertained the servants and others and continued this practice after he got to Sharon. One time, after Dr. and Mrs. Chaffee had had lunch with us, we asked Reid to perform, which he was always willing to do; he was about to start when he noticed that Mrs. Chaffee was talking. This bothered him tremendously, and after waiting a few seconds, he exclaimed ‘Jesùs, Marià, José! Còmo habla esta senora’ to the great amusement of Dr. Chaffee when we translated this for him and also for Mrs. Chaffee.
We returned to London in 1938, where we had an apartment on Portland Place. The President of France and his wife made a ceremonial visit that year to the King and Queen of England, who met their distinguished guests at the station, and proceeded from there in a regal procession to Buckingham Palace.
Thousands of English people, as is their custom, lined the route to view the ceremony, coming early and bringing lunches. Miss D’Arcy took Reid and Maureen to see this spectacle, and Reid, as Miss D’Arcy told us later in the day, lost no time in getting acquainted with the spectators in his section. He modestly asked them if they would like to hear him sing, and when they of course said ‘Yes,’ he again modestly asked them whether they wanted him to sing in English or Spanish or French, with the result, as he may have planned, that he was urged to sing in all these languages. He compiled with great dramatic fervor. After his repertoire was exhausted, and possibly the spectators, he volunteered to dance and did some very intricate steps to the delight of these very nice and hospitable people.
He then gave them his views on a number of matters that seemed to be puzzling the world. Among other things, he told them he did not think very highly of English cooking; he also thought the English were not very proficient in music, especially classical music. However, he was tremendously impressed with the English military display in the procession and when asked if America had an Army, he said, ‘Oh, yes, a very fine Army.’ They asked how large an Army and he said that it was very large, that his guess would be that there were over 100 soldiers in our Army.
In 1940, when Reid was about ten years of age, we were at the Rhinebeck Horse Show where Reid was displaying a large Willkie button. President Roosevelt came in to see the show and sat in his car with a Swedish Princess, surrounded by secret service men. We were in the grandstand and Reid decided to go over and call on the President. He first took the precaution of removing his Willkie button. When he returned in about an hour it was apparent that he was very disappointed that the secret service men had not questioned him as they did others, and he reported that he had gone right up to the car and looked at Mr. Roosevelt but that the latter evidently did not recognize him because he did not speak. After this slight, he put on his Willkie button again and resumed his loyalty to this mountebank. (Not meaning by this that President Roosevelt was not one also.)
Reid (and I hope the rest of the children will pardon this statement) is the real intellectual of the family. He reads nothing but good literature. There are few young men of his age that have as extensive a vocabulary. He was at one stage in his youth so given to quotations that the rest of the children dared not mention at the table any play by Shakespeare, or the poetry of Keats or Shelley or Milton without Reid standing up and delivering himself of quotations from these authors that sometimes occupied most of the mealtime. Reid graduated at the head of his class at Millbrook School and distinguished himself at Yale. As a sophomore he was head of the debating team, with juniors and seniors under him, and he won many important debates including the one with Oxford. He was highly thought of by the professors and especially in the English Department. He also wrote a lot of poetry, and good poetry. He was a member of the Fence Club, The Elizabethan Club, Torch Honor Society, Skull & Bones, and Vice-Chairman of The Yale Daily News.
He had the good judgment to marry the very beautiful and gracious Elizabeth (Betsy) Howell.
“I think there is entirely too much driving of cars by our children. It is not unusual for two or three cars to come into New York in a day. In the first place, the best and most sensible way of getting to New York is by train; that is how over 90% of the people from Sharon (Connecticut) move from one place to the other. The cars are extremely expensive and their operation is expensive, and they are dangerous as well. I am sure that there is a very large mileage registered on the car of every member of the family.
Outside of John and Priscilla, none of you has earned enough money to buy a car and I think that you should be very careful in your use of one.
Some of you have gotten into the practice of arriving swankily (sic) in a car and turning it over to Mr. Cronin to park, asking him to put up the dollar for parking charges. Anyone who hasn’t a spare dollar, or having one fails to carry it in his pocket, should not be driving a car into New York.
I have thought of this matter a number of times, and I am sure your Mother has.
W. F. Buckley.”
Ibid., 237-38. Another memo from Camden this time:
“Now that most of you have your own cars, and the so-called (by the children) “family cars” which suffered greatly during the War for many and varied reasons have been replaced with new ones, I hope you will all try not to age them too much during the coming Holidays.
First of all, if those of you who are nicotine addicts should be overcome by your craving while you are driving, please use the ashtrays. While I agree with Mayor McCorkle that everything possible should be done to keep Camden clean, I also would like to keep the inside of the cars clean, so please do not throw papers and trash on the floor. Regarding the City of Camden, I feel that you are all old enough to make your own decisions.
Second, Ben Heath tells me the station-wagon should never be left out over-night. So if you use it in the evening, be sure it is put in the garage, no matter how exhausted you may think you feel when you come home. Moreover, be careful when you do put it away, because station-wagons have become too wide to enter normal garages.
Third, if you are unfortunate enough to scratch or dent a fender, report it to the main office. We carry expensive insurance policies to cover all damage over $50.00; any damage under that figure will be paid for by the responsible party.
I hope that none of you younger children will take the preceding sentence as a suggestion that you have only major accidents.
“MEMORANDUM TO THE BUCKLEY CHILDREN:
I have been much concerned of late with the apparent inability of any of you, at any time to go anywhere on foot, although I am sure your Mother would have informed me if any of you had been born without the walking capacity of a normal human being.
A few of the older children, notably Priscilla, occasionally walk a few hundred yards behind a golf ball, but all the others “exercise” exclusively by sitting on a horse or a sailboat.
Concurrently, I have noticed that the roads around Sharon are crowded with Buckley cars at all hours of the day and night, and it has been years since any of you has been able to get as far as the Town Clock, much less the Post Office without a car, or if under 16, a car and a chauffeur.
All the cars are left out every night in all kinds of weather, undoubtedly because of the dangerous fatigue involved in walking from the garage to the house.
I think that each of you should consider a course of therapy designed to prevent atrophy of the leg muscles if only for aesthetic reasons, or you might even go to the extreme of attempting to regain the art of walking, by easy stages of course. The cars might then be reserved for errands covering distances of over 50 yards or so.
Ibid., 239. A resigned protest to Bill’s future father-in-law:
“MEMORANDUM TO AUSTIN C. TAYLOR:
I have tried for many years to interest my children in conventional sports, but I have not been very successful. Billie (William F. Buckley, Jr.) is easily the worst in this regard, having no interest in tennis, golf, or other activities which satisfy the great majority of the nation. If you expect to entertain him, you will find it necessary to furnish him with 1) a horse, 2) a yacht, or 3) a private airplane.
Aloise joins me in affectionate regards to you and Babe.
“Mr. Edward Pulling,
Millbrook, New York
Dear Mr. Pulling:
My wife sent me a letter from Billy today which reminds me of his very illegible handwriting. He uses the backhand, very awkwardly, and it seems to me it will cause him a lot of inconvenience and annoyance in the future as well as retarding his speed in writing. I realize that such things as handwriting should have been taken care of long before a boy gets to Millbrook, but nevertheless I wonder if there is anything you could have done for Billy in this connection.”
“My dear Billy:
In thinking over my letter to you it may have appeared very critical and I hope you did not take it that way.
Your mother and I like very much your attitude of having strong convictions and of not being too bashful to express them. What I meant was that you would have to learn to be more moderate in the expression of your views and try to express them in a way that would give as little offence as possible to your friends.”
Ibid., 242-45. The speech which Father wrote but was too shy to deliver on the eve of Bill’s (William F. Buckley, Jr.) wedding:
“I feel that the honor of the Buckley family, or what is left of it after the activities of my children during the last year, requires that I now, somewhat belatedly I confess, divulge to the Taylor family that they have been the victims of a fraud.
In matters of love and marriage, my children are a most unscrupulous lot. They were determined to get Ann and Pat as sisters-in-law and, as usual, let nothing stand in their way. I must tell you that my children’s tactics vary with the character of their victims: with Ann, who is extremely wily herself, they resorted to prayer; with Pat, however, whom they consider very strong-minded, they despaired of prayer and resorted to artificial wile.
For the last five or six years our daughter Patricia had announced each spring that Pat was going to visit us in Sharon and each Fall that she was coming to Camden. After Pat failed to materialize for several seasons, I asked Patricia about this mysterious girl and the answer was, ‘Pat looks like a queen, she acts like a queen and is just the wife for Billy (William F. Buckley, Jr.).’ Poor Pat’s fate was inevitable after this. When Pat did not come to visit the Buckleys, Patricia decided to visit the Taylors. She then shrewdly suggested to an oil company that Billy and Patricia’s fiancé, Brent Bozell, could do excellent work for the company in Alberta and Saskatchewan. In due course she casually suggested that the Taylors invite Billy for a short visit. I will explain later why the other Buckley children joined in the plot.
Brent’s name moves me to digress from my story for just a second to illustrate the lethal qualities of these children when they are on the hunt. Billy and Brent became inseparable friends the day they arrived at Yale. Billy told Patricia how wonderful Brent was, and notwithstanding that she had not yet met him, Patricia immediately fell in love. Parenthetically, Brent had shown some radical tendencies in his career at Yale, which Billy deplored but which he said had greatly moderated since their acquaintance. After spending one evening with Patricia, Brent asked Billy how he would like to have a radical for a brother-in-law, whereupon Billy telephoned Patricia that she was engaged. Nothing that Brent said could change this fact—he was engaged and that was that.
But to return to our subject. The alarming thing about Patricia’s plan is that it immediately developed into a conspiracy among the rest of the children, in which Patricia and Billy had no part. Billy has always been regarded by the rest of the family, except Patricia, as being slightly deficient in a sense of humor, and unbearably arrogant and dictatorial. The latter quality, I gather from chance remarks, they attribute in part to the former defect. Now, his brothers and sisters have devised all kinds of plans to tame Billy without any success whatever, and when Patricia and Billy told them how strong-minded and determined Pat was, they had the inspiration that here was the instrument to use for their purpose. In mitigation of the determination of the other children, but that you may understand fully the gravity of the role that is being assigned to innocent Pat, I must give some illustrations of the character and imperiousness of the Taylor’s future son-in-law.
When he was six years old, he wrote the King of England demanding that England pay her war debt.
When Billy was eight and a half, a guest remarked in the presence of her daughters, ages 25 and 28, that she had no religion and that her daughters had not been baptized. Within three hours Billy reported to his Mother that while the two daughters were taking a nap he and Patricia had baptized them. Their souls were thus saved regardless of their will or their mother’s (sic; no period)
When Billy was ten, he attended Beaumont College, near Ascot, and within two days of his arrival he called at the office of the President, a distinguished scholar, and told him that there were a number of things about Beaumont that he did not like. Father Sharky, who recounted this incident to us later, said that the shock rendered him too paralysed to speak and that before he recovered Billy had explained the deficiencies of this venerable college.
One week-end Jane, about two years older than Billy, brought to Sharon a little girl about her own age. This girl was not a bit shy and when we sat down to dinner began expounding on world affairs. Billy arrived late and after listening to not more than two sentences said, ‘Look here, (what’s her name?) Cecily, you are entirely too young to have such positive convictions, and besides I am going to tell you something that will surprise you—you are mistaken in every statement you have made.’ He then turned to me in an aside, which everybody could hear, and said, ‘I took a dislike to her as I came in the door.’
When in 1938, the older children founded a local newspaper in Sharon devoted to the advocacy of isolationism, which brought on the family animadversion of the entire community, Billy was given the special job of delivering the paper to the post office because he was too young and innocent to realize that he might be mobbed on the way. Considering himself a member of the staff he solemnly announced at dinner that evening that the Editorial Board must make no decisions in policy without consulting him.
It was decided to send Patricia to the Ethel Walker School when she was about thirteen years of age in spite of the misgivings of Billy. Based on his experience with the weaker sex he felt that the girls at the school were not sufficiently refined for Patricia, although his sister Jane had been attending the school for a couple of years without any protest from him. As we left her at school we could see a look of consternation on Billy’s face. He had, in his preoccupation with global affairs and some correspondence with congressmen overlooked a very important item. He felt that the girls’ dresses at Ethel Walker were a little too short, so he located Patricia at a distance from the car of about 30 feet, and then had her reach up with the right hand and then the left hand until he found the proper length for her dresses. Then he pinned her dress in the right places and gave instructions for alterations.
At Millbrook School he appeared uninvited at a faculty meeting to report that a member of the faculty had deprived him of the right to express his political views in class and proceeded to expound to the stunned faculty on the virtues of isolationism, the dignity of the Catholic Church and the political ignorance of the school staff.
Having no witnesses here to corroborate all of these statements (my wife, while entirely too gentle to attempt fraud, is nevertheless too loyal to condone this exposure of her children) I appeal to Dr. Shumiatcher here present for a confirmation of the following:
A summer ago when Billy spent the summer at Regina (he was gradually being moved nearer to Pat by Patricia) he and Brent were leaving Dr. Shumiatcher’s office as a professor from Yale was entering. According to Dr. Shumiatcher, the professor asked if that could possibly have been Bill Buckley of Yale. When advised that that was the same person, the professor said, again according to Dr. Shumiatcher, ‘That boy took a course under me last year on politics and I give you my word he talked twice as much as I did during the entire year!’
Fortunately, there is another objective witness here, Mr. MacDonald of San Antonio. Billy was transferred to the San Antonio Military Base when demobilization started, and after being there forty-eight hours wrote a letter to the Commanding General telling him that he had found a great waste of manpower and his staff was inadequate, and expressed surprise that such things could be. He submitted a plan of his own redesigning the entire system. This letter and plan had to go through Mr. MacDonald, who intervened and saved Billy from an immediate court martial.
There are many other instances but I have given you enough to satisfy my own conscience and enough to warn Mr. and Mrs. Taylor that there is a purpose behind this assiduous courtship by the entire family and that Billy’s brothers and sisters expect to use Pat to accomplish what they have failed to do and that is to beat Billy into submission, even if it requires his being beaten into insensibility. If Pat survives in her course between Scylla, the family, and Charybdis, her husband, it will be a tribute to the stamina that she has inherited from her Father and Mother.
I feel that this report, while very belated, will serve to be a vindication of my wife and myself. I can now, however, foresee from the frowns on my children’s faces the storm that is gathering and which will descend on my head if I do not isolate myself until after the wedding tomorrow afternoon at 1:30.
Your Mother and I have thought for a long time that you are intellectually and temperamentally suited for a law career, which you would find you would enjoy very much.
I am sure that Jimmy would have no trouble getting you into the Yale Law School and as a matter of fact I don’t think he would allow you to go anywhere else.
You should write to the Dean of the Law School as soon as…”
Your Mother and I both think that it would be far more sensible for you and your family to live in Sharon than in Hartford.
The Bingham house is now on the market and I am sure it can be bought very reasonably.
Mr. Cole can take you through the house either this Saturday or next. Be sure to let him know which is…”
Ibid., 246-47. The year Bill’s God and Man at Yale came out, Father wrote:
“I had planned to have a long talk with you in the East about your future…
In the first place, I will state that if you are in this country during the next electoral campaign, I think it would be invaluable experience for you to…participate in X’s campaign. I liked this man’s letters very much, as did your Mother. Maureen got so enthusiastic I think she would like to volunteer, with the reservation only that you must adopt all of her views, or none. I have the feeling that you will inevitably be drawn into politics, or alternatively catapult yourself into this field. What this country needs is a politician who has an education, and I don’t know of one. There hasn’t been an educated man in the Senate or House of Representatives since Sumner of Texas quit in disgust three or four years ago. Joe Bailey and Spooner were great constitutional lawyers with a broad knowledge of history; Borah was a thinker and had a thorough knowledge of American constitutional law; and John Sharp Williams, of Mississippi, was a thoroughly educated man. I don’t know of any other educated Congressman or Senator in the last 25 years.
If you are going into politics, or if without going into politics you want to continue to discuss public questions, you should spend a couple of years in study…If this is to be your course, I would think that you could very profitably spend 8 to 10 months a year for two years at Oxford or Cambridge, and study under one or two of the outstanding scholars there…You could, of course, do the same thing at a French or German university, but you could not afford in addition to go through the struggle of either perfecting your French or of mastering German. Besides, the English have an innate mastery of politics and government which is not reflected in their stupid incursion into Socialism.
The other alternative, and this could be deferred until you get back from your trip to Europe, or even until after your return from two years of study there (unless the business should go bankrupt because of your absence for so long a period) is the matter of going into business with John and Jimmy and their associates…In my opinion, you would make a great executive, and it would not take you long to get into the spirit of what we are doing and trying to do, and I believe this is a field that would fascinate you. You would get primarily the pleasure coming from adventure (and gambling), and in addition the multiple interests of dealing with governments and bankers and oil companies….
I do hope that you will discuss this matter with Mr. and Mrs. Taylor, while you are there, and possibly permit Pat and Christopher to sit in the room while you are doing so. (A little Phenobarbital would help to keep them quiet!)
Lots of love…
“If Father noted in later years that Maureen still gobbled her words, that Bill’s handwriting was totally unreadable and Aloise seemed never to emerge from a cocoon of cigarette smoke; that, in fact, the barrage of memoranda he had shot at his children had remained to a large extent unheeded, this was no reason to desist. And so, from his hotel in Bad Gastein two weeks before his death came an admonitory note to a 36-year old daughter.
My dear Priscilla,
Since you and Carol plan to spend several weeks in Mexico, I think you should know that young ladies of good families do not go unescorted in Mexico City. This is a custom I think you girls should respect….
In Part Four, Connecticut, III. “The Squire: A Reminiscence,” by Van Zandt Wheeler, page 258:
“Will (William F. Buckley, Sr.) was the founder and architect of the Buckley family as it exists today.“
The poor, rich Buckley children! What an emotional obstacle course was created for this quasi-perfect group by the Irish mini-tyrant from San Diego as he preened them to set their sights on the day they would peer bug-eyed over the officially-authenticated copy of his probated will! They had to be solicitous! Father was the type who leaves his money to the cat or the Karl Marx Foundation if he doesn’t get his way! Will Power Will (William F. Buckley, Sr.) or should we call him “Bullshitter Buckley”—he must have given a big hug and kiss to the Blarney Stone sometime in his life—would have been too much to bear for most of us wee mortals who must foot our own bills and can only indulge in reverie about the horse/yacht/airplane set. I am stunned by this man’s highly authoritative character, and I am alarmed that the Buckley family would care to catalog “Father’s” eccentricities for future Buckley generations boasting all the while that his bizarreness was worthy of emulation even for the rest of humanity!
What emerges from our selected texts is a make-shift organization of an individual’s distinguishing character traits, attitudes, and habits; and, we deduce from these private glances a disposition charged to be reflective of narrow interests; possessed of desires to own and dominate; harshly and haughtily arrogant; prone to carry on in an unyielding, obstinate, and persistent manner; difficult to handle; exacting; crazed to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable; oppressive to and contemptuously overbearing towards others; flawed with a tendency to change by unfair means so as to serve his own purpose; psychologically unsettling; obsessed with excessive and blind patriotism; inclined to querulous and often perverse criticism; and, sharply unpleasant. In short, an old cantankerous fart!
Are not our heart strings tugged at for dear Mrs. Buckley? We do not learn a great deal about her in this book, but imagine, my dear reader, sitting at table with ten little brats one of whom, knock-kneed Jimmy (later to be a Ronald Reagan under-secretary), is smacking on his food and screeching his penny-whistle; another, Maureen, is gobbling her words; still another, Reid, dressed as a bishop, is dancing and singing in English, French and Spanish; Aloise is in a cocoon of cigarette smoke; and Willie (William F. Buckley, Jr.), the editor of Ronald Reagan’s favorite magazine (National Review), is zapping out little girls with Don Rickles-like long-liners after professing he does not like them on coming in the door; and, above and beyond everything else, Billy (William F. Buckley, Jr./Billie) is altering girls’ dresses to conform to his idea of knee-length morality! I bet Saint Aloise wished she was in Mexico fomenting revolutions with her husband. Anything to get out of this crazy house and away from those damn memos from hotels in Caracas, sleeping cars in Spain, apartments in Paris, and rented rooms in London. And signed, of course, with “Lots of love, El Senor!”
It is not in the purview of this piece to psychoanalyse Will Power Will. However, if the reader takes out his abnormal psychology textbook, and looks under “A” for antisocial personality, “N” for narcissistic reactions, “P” for paranoid patterns, and “P” for power patterns, he or she will arrive at what I think is fairly good insight into this rip-roaring member of the human race, “The John McEnroe of the Petroleum Industry.”
It is more important to turn now to a matter more serious than Father’s strange familiar behavior. As much as I think his family often wished he was there, I do not think his extraordinary manner in conducting himself with his children and close associates qualifies him for the loony bin. What does, I am afraid, make him more than poco loco is his ideas about Mexicans, Centralamericans, Southamericans and Hispanics. And we must examine closely his sentiments, for I believe, in many ways, they still hold sway with a considerable segment of present-day Northamerican militaristic, diplomatic, and economical ideologues who guide, rather ineptly, United States’ foreign policy. Bullshitter Buckley, I contend, is one of many who has helped establish a dangerous reputation for Northamericans, “south of the border”: a recognition by other people that slumbers agonizingly in hate and frustration yet hoping for—without any basis for expecting fulfilment and deliverance—a release from the enduring torture of years of abuse and exploitation; an appreciation that threatens the ideals of peace, harmony, and cooperation which are essential to coexistence between Northamerica, Centralamerica, and Southamerica.
Let us take a retrospective view of Will Power Will’s demented convictions of Latin people. The preponderate quantity of Mexicans, for example, have not the natural talent necessary to reason. Quod erat demonstrandum, and get this rip-snorting logic: it does not matter what they think! And since they do not possess the facts or conditions of being aware of something, they are ineffective individuals. (Not all of them, for sure. Friendly dictators, “educated” people of a special class, probably those who have gone to Catholic universities as Father did, and certainly those who do business with him and shoot at squatters for him…these are immune from his blanket generality.) The mass of Mexicans are not answerable to a higher authority. They are too stupid to be responsible. This is an inherent, settled habit. In fact, men of the Latin race display weakness when a crisis is brewing. They panic; they clutch. The best way to handle these characters is to use a firm hand. We may, then imply that illicit activities in collusion with types such as Rox Beaumont and a United States Government which nods tacit approval at incited revolutions, are fair play in dealing with these Latin varmints. And, should these rascals injure a Northamerican, an invasion force from the United States has the right to put to death the offending parties. (And it was “thought” by Father that “Latin America respects us more when we attend to our own business and do not call Latin Americans in for consultation” [ !!! ]) Yanqui, go home? Gringo, go home? Bullshitter Buckley, go home?
Yes, Will Power Will fits the racist profile. And he is definitely xenophobic whenever he steps out of any rich man’s club or Northamerican embassy which shelters him among the “educated” class, away from the realities of Latin life. It is sad for me to say that the majority of the Northamerican colony in Caracas, Venezuela, where I have lived for more than five years, possesses Father’s penchant for avoiding contact with the commonplace people of Venezuela unless they be individuals with whom business is to be done or politics is to be promoted.
Relations between Northamericans, Centralamericans, and Southamericans is an intriguing topic. An extremely complicated subject of discourse. I am convinced that while we are separated minimally in distance from each other, we are light years away from clasping hands in a spirit of goodwill and friendship. For this unfortunate state of affairs, we may thank Will Power Will and others of his ilk who share his syndrome of disdain and disrespect for the dignity of all men unless they measure up to fatheaded and spurious notions of justice and equality.
I challenge all members of the Buckley clan—I send photocopied memos to them—to come to any Latin city to proclaim the prejudices of their Father not among the friendly, “educated,” wealthy classes who are pals of dictators and government leaders, but in the midst of the inhabitants of the barrios and favalas. There, I dare them to preach Father’s messages of selfishness and loathing to the submerged ninety percent of Spanish-speaking people who are social, economic, and spiritual convicts.
It would be unfair to assign to eccentric millionaires, their family members, and the conservative “movement” the onus for the formation of civilization’s large-scale aggression, destructiveness, and perverted senses of power. Exploitation and manipulation are age-old human conditions, and they have done more than anything to produce the long line of sadistic and destructive maniacs who have inhabited this Earth. These tempers of mind curtailed the growth of human self-activity, human creative ingenuity, and human needs and capacities.
Yet Northamerican conservatives have had too much a share of pessimism and negativism to offer. They have grouped together to form palsy-walsy social, cultural, economic, and political ties which serve the inclusive general concept that a government should dole out political and civil honors according to wealth. The conservative is not interested in offering a fair shake to his fellow man, and he excludes him from his power circles with the justification that life demands a political philosophy which exalts the nation and a select group of individuals above all others, and that severe economic and social regimentation, and the forcible suppression of the opposition, are necessary measures to exercise stringent control over the masses who are considered inferior to the nobler and more privileged conservative.
I deny this philosophy and its aspects of myopic gloom. I look for Programs which show liveliness and interest in good things. Which look with hope to the future. Which signal danger, but communicate love and understanding.
“Human behavior leads to make-believe, disequilibrium, frustrations, lies, or, on the contrary, it becomes the source of rewarding experiences, in accordance with its manner of expression in actual living—whether in bad faith, laziness, generosity, and freedom,” said Simone de Beauvoir.
I wish that all people enjoy their lives in a spirit of generosity, lucidity, and freedom and I beg William F. Buckley, Jr. and his family members to come to their political and human senses and yield to the ideal that all men belong to the same community where equality and justice for all is the common goal.
* * *
Anthony St. John
Casella Postale 38
50041 CALENZANO FI
14 April 1982